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Woman falls to death paragliding in Hualien; investigation underway

11/19/2023 09:24 PM
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A road in Hualien County is roped off Saturday following the death of a woman who fell to the ground while paragliding. Photo courtesy of local police Nov. 18, 2023
A road in Hualien County is roped off Saturday following the death of a woman who fell to the ground while paragliding. Photo courtesy of local police Nov. 18, 2023

Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) Police in Hualien County are investigating the death of a woman from Chiayi County who fell to the ground from a height of about 10 meters while paragliding and later succumbed to serious injuries on Saturday.

Fenglin Precinct officers and officials with the Hualien County Department of Education on Sunday inspected the site where the 27-year-old woman, surnamed Hsiao (蕭), was found near the 37-kilometer marker of the coastal Provincial Highway 11.

Police said they have seized the paraglider and launched an investigation into the case after Hsiao's boyfriend accused the company providing the paragliding services in Hualien of failing to properly secure Hsiao's safety buckles.

The paragliding instructor surnamed Yeh (葉) who was on the tandem flight with Hsiao when the accident occurred was questioned by prosecutors and released on NT$50,000 (US$1,574) bail on Sunday.

The prosecutors have joined the investigation to determine if the case involved manslaughter, the police said.

The accident occurred Saturday morning when Hsiao was on a tandem flight with Yeh along the Jiqi coast in Hualien's Fengbin Township.

According to a video clip provided by Hsiao's family members, one safety buckle on Hsiao's thigh was seen loosening before the two took off.

The paragliding company told the media that the coach discovered a loosened buckle soon after they took off, and tried to fix the problem immediately.

For "unknown reasons," however, the buckle was disconnected, leading the passenger to fall from a height of 10 meters as they were trying to land, it said.

"When the accident happened, the coach had no time to grab the passenger," the company said.

Hsiao was found with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest when she was spotted on a small road near the highway and was declared dead after efforts to resuscitate her failed at Hualien Hospital's Fengbin branch, according to Fenglin police.

The Hualien education department said, meanwhile, that it has determined that the paragliding instructor was licensed for the sport, but the company providing the service did not have a business permit for paragliding because it failed to meet land and facility requirements.

The department said the company, whose business operations were suspended after the death was reported, also did not have the Civil Aviation Administration's permission to fly non-powered paragliders.

Given that related regulations do not specify any penalties for non-compliance, however, it is difficult to stop unauthorized business operators from soliciting customers, the department said.

(By Lee Hsien-fen and Elizabeth Hsu)


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